Discovering Deeply Rooted Mutual Needs for Affection — SPD?
Coffee time – Saturday, January 19
Pat: I had had a great day yesterday – time with friends, with my grandson Henry, etc. But when I came home around 4:30 I felt things were off between us. Gary: My mood upon your arrival was one of being listless. Pat: That word sounds correct, listlessness is what I saw in you. Gary: Let me look up listless: having or showing little or no interest in anything; languid; spiritless; indifferent. That nails it. Listlessness was my mood.
Pat: How do we keep our inner fire stoked? When one is listless one is caught in pattern – victim to the whim of whatever comes. Gary: Yesterday was hard. Nothing yesterday inspired me, nothing gave me a sense of purpose or direction. Pat: Is your sense of inspiration and purpose coming from “out there,” outside yourself? Gary: (a little irked at Pat’s suggesting an obvious possible issue: that my problem is seeking inspiration from outside myself) I am not too quick to make this a problem to solve or an indictment against myself that I am somehow depending on externals for my sense of purpose. This may be true, even probably is true, but I need to just be in awareness of what my mood was yesterday. Pat: It would be nice if when I come into the house and see you listless if we could just be with that listlessness and not try to make it a problem or something to fix. However yesterday when I came in enthused after a good day and saw your low energy and listlessness I became alarmed!
Gary: Ah! A feeling word – alarmed. As we roll back to then, what was up in your feeling alarmed? Pat: Negative moods are alarming to me when I come into them. As a kid I remember coming home to Mom finding her off-moods alarming. Gary: So yesterday you were coming home in a high-energy state. Pat: I would say I came home to you in a “good mood.” I was happy, enthused about life. This reminds me of my childhood. I would come home from my neighbor Mary Ann Highland’s house. It had been a time of fun and freedom. I’d come home to Mom who was not in a fun mood. She would see my happiness and feel bad, saying, “Don’t you even like your own household?” Clearly a meeting of different energies, and I would be alarmed.
So yesterday it affected me when I came home in my lively and light energy and perceived you in a low energy, grossing in your own world. Now your and my intention, our strongest intention, is to learn to be open and present to one another when we are in different energy fields. So let’s unpack my experience a bit. How was it with Mom when I came in the door after spending time with Mary Ann? The way it worked was this. I would come in with my antennae up, trying to quickly discern the emotional terrain, the emotional configuration of my family. I would try to quickly discern, “What are the family’s expectations, or in particular, Mom’s expectations of me, her expectations of each member of the family?” I would try to figure out what we were supposed to do to keep Mom happy. How were we to behave? What were the concerns in the family air?
I noticed that the simple being together as a family, enjoying being together as a family, was missing when I was young. I remember that when I was 13 Dad got the motorboat. That really helped – pure fun being together as a family on the river. Also Dad loved swimming, and every Sunday we would go the local pool. That, too, brought us together as a family.
So I am the one with antennae up, feeling into everyone’s terrain, everyone else’s business. So where is MY inner fire? How can I learn to live from MY inner fire without being sensitive to everyone else’s moods?
Gary: Yesterday when I was listless I realize I was not feeling my connection to other members of the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork organization. Yes, I am doing a lot of financial, organizational, and planning work, but I am isolated and not engaged with others. Very familiar space for me in so many organizations my entire life.
And there wasn’t much energy in me toward US. I would say my Eros in our relationship was low. Then when you came home you had the evening all figured out: We would have supper at Panera, get fireplace irons at Home Depot, and go grocery shopping at Kroger’s. I did not feel energy for any of this, but rolled with the punches. Pat: But not happily!
Gary: My mood continued in this listless place last night. Your energy was for several projects, but I was not inspired. Pat: You were wanting inspiration? Gary: Not consciously, but clearly your enthusiasm met my listlessness. Pat: What was going on in me in this discomfort was the need to keep the lid on my enthusiasm, cutting off my life force in your presence. How are we with one another when these opposites are in the field between us? It would not have been helpful for me to have commented on your listlessness and low energy. In fact, commenting on that would have made matters worse. Could I have appreciated, been open to, or simply have been open and OK with your listlessness?
Gary: As I contemplate yesterday I sense that, in your enthusiasm, and in my facing your enthusiasm and agenda, I did not have a voice in what WE were going to do. Pat: Yes, having your voice is at the core: not having your voice in any of what we were going to do! Gary: Yes, I see that this relates to my coming home to Mom as a kid. She was always busy and planning our lives and I would have to get on her train. I could not find my voice to get on my train as it related to Mom and me, to the family. Pat: And now, since finding your voice is new and challenging, you speak with undue force and loudly to get your needs on the table for US. Neither of us is skilled in calling out our needs in a soft harmonious way. Gary: In our relationship I am not even allowing myself to have needs much less speak them. Pat: We each have a need, as all humans do, for authenticity with one another, of having our own voice with the other. This is a basic human need.
Gary: Beyond sex, I am not clear on my needs from our relationship. Then a harsh self-judgment comes up: How could you, Gary, not be clear on your own broader needs in your relationship with Pat? At a deeper level I am longing for simple affection, something I was not familiar with around our home growing up. Entering the unfamiliar waters of affection is way too fraught with danger for me. When this core, largely unconscious, need for affection is not being met in our relationship I become listless, even hopeless. Pat: And I, too, did not experience affection in my family. There was a lack of intimacy among us as a family. So now you and I are trying to discover both affection and intimacy – really gazing into each other’s eyes, making room for more affection and touch as we move through our day with each other.
Pat: So what were you needing from me when I came home and found you listless? It was probably the affection you did not get from Mom, her not just holding you against her heart and taking you in in your undefended vulnerable state.
Gary: And I struggle to give that affection to myself. In me the Dominant Logical One shows up – my internal Mom. I did not internalize an internal affectionate mom, for Mom was not that. She was herself the Dominant Logical One in all that she did – organizing everything, leading, teaching, etc. – and that’s what I am familiar with. And that leaves my inner child Gary as the one starved for the affection and warmth every human being needs.
Pat: Yes, Mom lives in you – the super organized one. But there is another part in you that is starved for intimacy, starved for the freedom to be undefended and vulnerable. Just breathe in all that’s needed by that part of you that needs affection. Our spiritual practices enable this in us, they change us. Gary: This is our Life’s homework. We are to live into all of this: giving and receiving affection.
Pat: As I read the book Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder, by Jane Miller and Doris A. Fuller, I see some of this SPD in you. Gary: Interesting. Yet accepting whomever we are, knowing that in our essence we have limitless capacities for creating anything. You too were starved for affection in your family, as you said. Pat: Especially with Dad. Gary: Maybe this all relates to SPD. All the more do we need affection for one another!
Shared with love, Gary